Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Pyaar is PACH


You know writing to you means a lot to me. A lot more than these letters are ever able to convey to you. I always thought of you as this grand entity, to whom I could write a lot of letters, about the kind of difference you make to my life - and you would give my letters a cursory glance, a benign nod at most, and then forget about it, allowing it to sink somewhere in the deluge of fanmail you get. But you, PACH, you're different. Nervous and excited, as I entered your ninth carnivalesque gathering, little did I know that you would have ready for me letters and notes and colours and brush-strokes - an entire collection of artistic treasures in response to all these words and love-filled gestures I have sent your way. Its only someone with a heart as large as yours who could have managed it - yes, you!
"P aur CH ki shaadi se kaam achchhe hue hain
Mubarak ho aapko, PACHche hue hain!"

Remember that day you were born? Oh, I am talking of your rebirth - not in that faraway land, but in my own backyard. That was the day you filled me with mirth, and filled three other quiet quills with inspiration. Yes. You were born as an inspiration, or better still, you were born to inspire, to motivate, to instil in tentative minds an urge to explore their dormant creative facets. I am not kidding - you can ask them around. Yes, you can ask those very faces who were waiting to burst into cheers and laughs from behind the colourful door at Bade Bhaiya's house. Tell me, aren't you glad that genuinely amazing people like Bade Bhaiya, Bhabhi, Sripriya and Amma associate themselves with you? That they not only open the doors of their house, but also of their hearts for you? That their love reaches you not just via the warm reception you get, but also through the aroma of most sumptuous, home-made food that is laid down specially for you? That Manmohan bhaiya always manages to find time to share his compositions with you despite having ultra-busy schedules? Also, aren't you, like, totally flabbergasted to have someone like Sandeep bhaiya add dollops of exuberance to your already lively existence, and then, to have him invite you over for a snug session somewhere in the chilly month of December? Yes yes, I know you are excited to go over and revel in the mutual exchange of happy, positive energies - but there is time till we get to that. 
Bade Bhaiya - "Larger Than Life"

S P Uncle, Manmohan Bhaiya and Sripriya -
I consider myself lucky to have met them :) 

I am not able to get over the love that poured out of sweet dish which Amma made for us. And the subtle cheer which Ambika bhabhi carried in her personality. And also the wisdom which poured out of S. P. Uncle's simple versus drawing a contest between technology and traditions. This time when we all met, there was a perfect confluence of enthusiasm and sagacity - an experience that can only be felt, not delineated. When the teacher and taught are present in the same room, with no walls separating them - as spectators what you get are little hints into what 'perfection' in life comprises of and what the true definition of a 'blessing' is. It all happens when you go places, PACH. And you are zooming around at a pretty mind-boggling speed. You still give us ample time to sit down and savour moments and allow them to seep deep into our beings. How you manage such crazy, magical, impossible, contradictory acts - well, its time I stopped asking you that banal question. 
When excitement was on its uphill journey 

I hope the superboss does not mind this little transgression I am going to make while whispering something into your ears. I remember this day I gave my mother a long-ish letter, written in my unbelievably grotesque handwriting, with a lot of random crayon strokes forming the background. She said nothing, merely read it and smiled - and this day, I know she was happy and proud. But more than either of them, she was surprised - because she did not think I was capable of such expressiveness (and yes, I am trying hard not to sound vain, but PACH, I know you understand. PACH always understands). I wrote that letter for no specific occasion; only because I felt like doing it, and invested great hours into perfecting each sentence, so my mother understands how important she is to my life. The sense behind narrating this non-eclectic incident to you is to try and approximate the immediate thought which occupied my head between the end of surprises and beginning of introductions. PACH, you surprised me. Well, I know thats what you intended - but no! Its not the surprise that surprised me - your capacity and capability did. Your skills and warmth did. Your eagerness to love did. Your will to share did. Your remarkable maturity did. The gleam in your eyes did. So much more did. I feel like telling you what I often tell Anup - whoever gave birth to this phenomenon, it now has acquired a life of its own. It just knows where to go, how to progress. 
"Poore PACH ka jama chittha, ek jagah chipkaya hai"

You have little idea of what you pulled off. Given a week's distance, I am in a better position to understand and appreciate the spectacle. To Neha, I need to say - I cried. I should have been howling, but I could not understand half the buzz which surrounded me. Its a great feeling to be subdued once in a while - take my word for it. I might try and repeat the mommy metaphor here - but, you get the drift. 
One day, we'll read and not eat this one :) 

Dear PACH, how does one pack so much together? Do you know what all? Drama + Mad laughs + Chocolates + Feelings + Love + Tears + Sugar + Bling + Disbelief + Riddles + Poems + Colours + Energy + Creativity + Blessings + Beauty + More disbelief + Even more love + Wishes + Fishes + Hugs + Tales + Some more love... and I'm cutting short this list only because I am too sleepy. You can still know that you made me feel infinitely special. I can go ahead and say that this was one piece missing from the jigsaw of life. Only you were capable of putting it there with all crazy, gaudy shades. 

This picture carries one of the rarer, photographed smiles of
perhaps the most prolific poet I know - Navin Dutta. I'm learning from him, each day. 
He just might be narrating his letter to his future wife here.
Wonder how many would be scurrying in his direction after hearing him out. 

I came back home and I cried. Shamelessly. I cried remembering the surprise and the things that followed thereafter. I couldn't get over the fact that people from such diverse backgrounds and experiences sat down together and shared anecdotes without any fear or inhibitions. My favourite part of the day was when a voice that has alternately and ironically been called the fairer, but second sex found expression in a poem which contained echoes from a pleading womb. A few of us related incidents where our gender became our curse, but then, the elders in the gathering assured us that things are changing - that daughters are the glory parents are eager to embrace. PACH, I felt secure among all those good people, and I am carrying the satisfaction of having arrived at a good and pure place in life. 
Nautanki! But bahut pyaari wali

Aastha didi - why could have I not met you sooner?

This letter is not even close to its end, but, I would quote the tiny princess of PACH here and rest my quill till the next (festive) tryst with you. Also, because I am sleepy and will drop dead in next five minutes. So, as Aavika says - "Kuchh baatein adhoori rehne diya karo, mann bhara rehta hai."

You see that guy in his staple red shirt?
I am proudly his fan! 
There, right there are seated some of the most awesome poets Delhi has been witness to. 

PACH, among the many epithets you've acquired, I love it when they say - Love is PACH, and PACH is love (I heard both). I'll thank you once again, with a kiss this time. I am happily, crazily in love with you. 

More love, 

Alter ego. Happily so!

PS - We're meeting next a day before Diwali. You're all like family now, and it only makes sense to share some sweets and hugs with you on this grand, bright, merry occasion. No firecrackers, unless they are of the Mago variety which cause laughter mayhem whenever lighted. Even if you have never been to PACH, and are reading about it for the first time, trust my word and book this Saturday for us. Drop a mail to for an invite. We're looking forward to you all! 

I wish I had preserved this!

Heights of craziness is this - gifting me Afremov. How?
(Thanks Kamal!)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

"Ek Baar Phir" - Guest Post by Sidhant Mago

Ek bench.. park mein bench
Hari ghaans, khadi ghaans
Aage sadak..thodi kadak
Sakht sa waqt
Thandi hawa
Khayalon ki umas ki dawa
Kaise bhool gaya, kohra bhi tha
Ya nahi tha..
Ya mujhe laga ki..tha
Kyun main bench par
Paer ghaans par
Aur hawa ke sahaare
Us dhundhle kohre ke beech se
Meri or ek chehra...
NAHI aaya

Ek ghar..furnished ghar
Rocking chair...aage peechhe
Ek carbon paper
Khamoshiyon ke neeche
Chhapa bhi kya, ehsaas?
Ghadi theek thi, samay par
Khidki par os thi
Ya nahi thi
Ya mujhe laga ki...thi
Kyunki main chair par jhoolta
Chair ghadi ke pendulum si jhoolti
Aur us carbon paper ko hataane
Us khidki se os ko mitaane
Achanak se ek haath...
NAHI aaya

Sewaiyaan thi... mannatein thi
Jannatein thi... namaaz thi
Kuchh haath soch hi rahe thi
Aur kuchh already mil chuke the
Kuchh gale jhuk hi rahe the
Aur kuchh already mil chuke the
Ek masjid... jo door thi
Par yaad hai?
Woh rota hua bachcha?
Woh paas tha
Ya nahi tha
Ya tha
Ya mujhe laga ki...tha
Toh maine bhi wahi kiya
Hasa diya
Par phir un sewaiyon ke saath
Woh gala aur woh haath
Us bachche ko hasaate
Eid aayi... par mera yaar
NAHI aaya

About the author
Sidhant Mago is known to the world as Shanky, and to me, he is known as one of the best persons to
have ever stepped on this planet. And I mean it. He is one of those people whose company guarantees unlimited laughter, for humour is his forte. More often than not, you'll be taken by surprise at the kind of wit his very general comments contain. However, the thing about him which impresses me most are his perspectives - on life, on love, on friends, on society - and on every other conceivable thing. Within him is contained an inexhaustible reservoir of creativity, which has many, varied manifestations  - mostly funny, non-serious stuff, or what he proudly calls 'cheap humour'. But then, there is this side to Shanky's creativity too, reproduced here with his permission. And what better day than today to share this poem, which takes one to the melancholy behind a celebratory day.

To all reading this, Eid Mubarak!

And special wishes for Aaqib Raza Khan, whose beautiful photographs have adorned my blog-posts time and again. 
This one falls among my favourite of ARK clicks.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

That Chocolaty After-taste

Dear PACH,

You have completely taken over my blog. Which should be fine, because in essence, you have actually taken over my life. You're grand, so grand that I am scared of sending a lot of letters to you. What if they get lost in your fan-mail? Are you promising me to hold them special, each word I write to you? Thanks. And I know you make the same promise to each name which associates itself with you. For all this warmth you show to a growing tribe of urban poets, I am proud of you. So proud.

The PACH #8 Invited - crafted by Aastha di and Sidhant Mago. 

A level up, each time. I am not even going to ask you now how you manage it. Lets both take it as a given. Lets also be clear that all this love that we have towards each other will stay, will grow and will spread to more hearts. Yes, more of those loving hearts connected with us last time - in manners so unique and new and pristine. Who would've known that PACH family would expand to over 50 members, all so soon! Its so incredible its crazy. But then, you're bored of this adjective, aren't you? Positively insane, lets adopt this for today.
Thats not all of us, but most of us. 

You're growing rich with all these emotions, dear PACH. Can you tell me how to handle them all at once? I mean, how do you react when a little, vivacious girl opens her heart to romance and its naughtiness with an understanding of relationships which leaves us flabbergasted? It was a Sunday she dedicated romance to, and it was a Sunday she made special for all of us staring at her with an open mouth, refusing to come out of the influence of those coveted love-filled moments. Mago said there are some poems you hear, and immediately wish you had written them. That silly little girl, Aavika, precisely turned out such a gem. At her age, how? And this 'how' will remain.
That cute, little show-stealer.

My twin came along a little late this time, to recite the verses which were her first. Do you remember PACH, this was the same girl who had gone on record saying that she cannot at all compose a poem, and hence even tried to stay away from you. But you, you managed to permeate to her creative inside, in which resided a poet who could give expression to both, love and angst. She shared them both with you, PACH. In that sense, you are lucky.
She is pretty, she is my twin, and the chain goes on...

Our latest tryst with you happened at the most pleasing and apt spot - the Kunzum Travel Cafe, that fabled place in Delhi which allows you to pay as much as you like for the lovely coffee, cookies and aromas they serve. Lets both admit, you and me, that Kunzum has been one of the best places we have met each other, and a host of other poets. Some things about you don't change, which are definitively looked forward to. One such thing is Mago's humour, which manifested in a poem we managed to sing along. His understanding and insight into feminine preoccupations is so perfect, that it leaves us in splits. Another such regular feature with you is a certain duet poetry performance, which leaves some hearts amazed, and yet more craving. These are the masters of poetry-dom. They rule over it with verses which are impossible to concoct, but effortless to connect with.
At the lovely Kunzum Travel Cafe - thankful to them for entertaining us at such short notice and tolerating us for such long hours. 

And then, there were these innumerable moments which I am living, reliving and enjoying each time I picture them on my memory-scape. Who do I share them with, if not you? Do you remember that song, 'Happiness'? Its one of those PACH moments I  which I tug onto with full force lest the melody and the message desert me. Lets not comment on the philosophy and ecstasy of Abhishek sir's contribution to PACH. Lets just gently savour the fact that a certain new addition has been made to the way you go about, and lets both fervently hope this guitar tradition continues. Talking of additions, how can you miss out on Aastha di's dialogue with God, which began at your seventh instalment, and attained culmination in the eighth. Her nervous excitement, and the care with which words tumbled out of her lips - don't you feel ridiculously special when people share such intimate, new aspects of their life with you? You must. Feel special, and stay innocent. Pretty please, always.
"Lay's ka packet hai, Happiness!"

Aastha di, with all her nervous excitement

Poets with round-rimmed glasses come and share their farewell musings with you and start crying on their own verses as well as those of others. I am, of course, talking of Sudhanshu. I have to admit, that his mention has an ulterior motive - it is to let you know a certain compliment he gave you behind your back. In his words, PACH, you are that which scratches old wounds, but then, you also heal them, you cause such tears to flow which carry negativity out, which purge some and comfort others. You don't just make us share tears and painful pasts, you also encourage dialogues on forms of poetry, 'Ghazals' being the subject of discussion the last time around. Aditya and Rohini shared some wonderful ghazals, and I was unfortunate to have missed out the latter's recitation. I also missed experimentation with Bangla poetry, but I am not sad. I know you will help me make up for it. Oh, by the way, you still have fan-poets like Nabila and Mukul who had you as their muse. Blushing, or growing vain? The former, I know.
Getting ready for a masterpiece to come our way. 

When we listen to those amazing lines. 

Among those many that thank you for reviving the creative spirit in them, I think Navin ji stands right in the front. Not only does he write the most amazing lines, but the way he recites them makes each listener's heart grow fonder. He said something about being unimaginably busy and yet wanting to share useless details with that one good friend, that loving presence. You know, this is a routine I follow, which he set in such beautiful words. For you, PACH, Navin ji does one more fabulous thing. He creates doodles as finely crafted memories from each session. You're lucky people spend time after you - drawing sketches, making posters, editing pictures - all because they want to do it, not because you ask them to. Again, when did you become so special to all of them? Kamal, Aaqib, Gaurav - they all are the fabulous people who help preserve your most special moments in exquisite frames. They should be given a nice chocolate next time, what say? Not out of my quota, of course!
The PACH #8 doodle. 

From realization of eradication of small pox, to a man traversing through life; from thirteen dimensions bestowed on a pillow to fascination with unrequited love; from meeting old familiar faces, to entertaining complete strangers for an entire day; from remembering Shail Chaturvedi to encouraging some unbelievable creative spirits; from verses written by ailing dads to poems sent by members living overseas - aren't you perplexed by the amount and the diversity you are able to subsume within yourself and yet be ready for more? I mean, you're still dreaming of those dizzying peaks which we all have to ascend to, right? I'll be there with you throughout, its a promise I don't even need to be consciously aware of. Meeting you was like falling in love. As days go by, I feel I am growing in love and also growing up in love - don't you feel the same?
Dobara, Chal Gayi!

Do you remember, I had claimed once that I already have my favourite PACH decided, while you were still in your nascent days? Well, that just changed. This one became very special. Not just for what I witnessed, but for the way I participated too. Rahul said that you can know more about a person through his poetry than anything else. I think I agree. You help me connect with myself too, in moments when I write those stoic paeans of love, or those dirges of what has remained in place of what could have been. You allow me to share all that heavy load with so many beautiful people. Few become pensive, few others shed tears. I maintain, shedding tears is good, it lets out so much of negativity. And then, the best thing, the realization that we share with each other because we trust each other. We love each other, of course, but trust - more important, for me. Not only during, but also before and after your six-hour-long stay, I had moments I am keeping with myself. Looking forward to you, and looking back at you. There is all this love I feel, that just stays. 
All set to recite.

Warmth. As the first signs of winters start raising their shy heads in our city, I am feeling this splendid glow from inside, this warmth, which refuses to go. It all seems normal, natural now. But I will never forget how if I step back and see it all, it seems like magic. People are going crazy after you just by hearing about you. Lets hope they all come to meet you the next time. Lets hope they too become a part of this magic you are casting on sleepy poets of the world. 

The colours I am gifted with. The moods too. 

I did not eat any chocolate this time while you were on, but I can feel the satisfaction of having gobbled up an entire Bournville, Cranberry flavoured, alone, which I earned, of course!

Just outside your nascent days.
Still revelling in your magical ways.
Living your memories like a sweet, chocolaty after-taste.

PS - What is also astonishing are all these bonds which have formed between all of us. I found a comforting elder sister here. Many others call PACH their family. And a family celebrates the happiness of its members. We celebrated the birthday of Aaqib and Pratibha this time, trying to make them feel special by some mad, last minute efforts. PACH, and all those who make it send them their best. We're all going to grow up together, right? 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Chhupana Seekh Liya

Kal raat, os giri thi mere aangan mein
Shabnam mein dubki  lagaaye maano gulaab jagmaga raha tha
Nange paaon baithi rahi, use takti rahi
Woh khush tha, ya boondon ke peechhe akelapan chhupa raha tha?
Kal subah uthte hi, tumhe nahi sataaoongi
Yeh khayaal jo adhpake se hain, tumhe nahi bataaoongi

Laal rang ko andhere se ladte jo dekh liya
Khush hoon, ki ab maine chhupana seekh liya

Phir kasa hua man aur aawara kadam
Bistar ki or nikal pade khud hi, narmi ki lalsa liye
Wahaan bikhre kambal ke jagah
Parchhai dikhi tumhari, aur ekaa-ek kadam rok diye
Jaao, kambal tumhara, tumhari neend bhi zaroori
Main simat jaati hoon zameen par, chhod baatein adhoori

Parchhai se na aankhon ko na baaton ko, bas ehsaas ko jod diya
Maun man, aankhein nam, aur maine chhupana seekh liya

Subah laga, baadal the shayad baahar
Akdi, pareshaan kamar ko sambhala, bhari ek sust angdaai
Kohra mila phir kamre ke hi andar
Dar toh laga tha meetha sa, par tumhe samjhaane se katraai
Ab subah ki kadvi coffee  mein apne raaz ghol deti hoon
Man khatta hai zara, yeh cheeni se bol deti hoon

 Raat ke khwab, subah ke khayal, din-din ghat-ti hichkiyaan,
Meri hain, tumhari kyun? Ab maine chhupanna jo seekh liya

Veeran nahi hai sheher mera
Yahaan gham aur khushi ke mele bunte hain kai kahaani
Palon ki ginti rukti hai kya bhala?
Baatein banti rehti hain, tum ehem samjho ya bemaani

Pichhle roz maine, bhoori chidiya ko sataya tha
Us-se pichhle din, kuchh gehnon pe dil aaya tha
Kisi bhoole-pehchaane shaqs se baazar mein takra gayi
Bachpan ke kisse chale, jinko sunke hasi aa gayi
Akela kala gulaab, do hazaar ka bikta hai
Aur ek mera laal hai, jo ab khaas nahi dikhta hai
Pados wali aunty ki hasi, daayan ko dara de
Par hathon mein swaad aisa, ki roothe ko mana de
Namak sahi nahi ho, toh khaane se kudh jaati hoon
Par ek dost hai meri, jis se namakdaani chhupaati hoon
Kaam mein kuchh uljhi aise, ki dino-din qalam nahi uthaya
Aur diary jab ainthi, toh use choom ke bagal mein sulaya

Yeh chhoti chhoti baatein, yeh toote se kisse
Chhupa bhi loon, par hain toh zindagi ke hisse
Tum bhi ab kisson mein ho, waqt ne yeh tohfa diya
Tumhare kisse tumse kya, ab khud se chhupana seekh liya
This gem by Afremov is called 'Expectations of Love' - now, how interesting! 
PS - 
Ankahe ehsaas laal os mein pighal gaye
Ik atki si soch hai, woh batana chahti hoon
Ki jo baat tumse na kahi
Ab khud bhi bhool jaati hoon.